[A repeat of January 22, 2017] I am as constant as the northern star – of whose true-fixed and resting quality – there is no fellow in the firmament.”  (Shakespeare – Julius Caesar III i 65)

Polaris.  The North Star.  Probably the most important celestial guidepost in the galaxy (at least if you’re on earth).  As mentioned on July 26, 2011, I taught astronomy merit badge at Camp Napowan – a Boy Scout camp in Wild Rose, WI.  For late night “star hikes,” the first point of interest – and discussion – was always Polaris. 

Why Polaris?  First – it never moves.  Day or night – winter or summer –  when you are in the Northern Hemisphere – Polaris will always be in the same spot.  Every star and galaxy revolves around Polaris (at least from our perspective here on earth).  Second, the degree of altitude above the horizon gives you near perfect north latitude.  Chicago is 42 degrees north latitude.  Polaris is 42 degrees above the horizon.  Fort Worth is 33 degrees north latitude.  Polaris is 33 degrees above the horizon.  And so on.  Finally, when you draw a straight line from Polaris to the ground, you have true North.  True North varies from magnetic North by a few miles to a few degrees depending on where you are.  This variance is called “declination.”   

To find Polaris – one need only find the Big Dipper (Ursa Major).  Go to the two vertical stars at the far end of the dipper and draw a straight line up.  Five times the distance between those stars (Merak and Dubhe).  Polaris (a bright 2d magnitude star) is the tail star of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor). 

 Polaris sits 433 light years from earth.  It is a “double star” (or “multiple” star) consisting of several stars which appear to be one.  Just think – if you could transport yourself to Polaris and look back on earth with a powerful telescope, you would see the earth — as it was in the year 1584 . . . . .  

Golf? Not in my country

On September 22 and 25, 2021, I wrote about the 47 countries in the world that have one – single – golf course. I suggested putting together a golf trip for the ages. Get a group of guys – who have carry on luggage and golf clubs — and head off to those countries like Afghanistan and North Korea that have one golf course. And move on to the next 45. I’m sure Golf Magazine would author a 10 page article on the expedition. The Golf Channel would likely have a series – featuring all of the brave souls who trekked to Turkmenistan to play the new Jack Nicklaus course (Ashgabat Golf Club) and braved an expedition to the Kabul Golf Club.

On the flip side, there would be an added challenge to assemble an investment group to develop golf courses in those countries that are barren of fairways and greens. Countries devoid of a golf course. For example:

San Marino
Western Sahara
Central African Republic

Who’s up for it?? Monaco and Liechtenstein might not be so bad for accommodations. But a few of those mentioned, a sleeping bag might come in handy. And we might need a few protein bars and some bottled water in the Western Sahara.


In my prior post, I poked fun at Swedes. I thought that there would be a newspaper article (“Blogger rants against Swedish people!”). I thought a saintly contingent of woke snowflakes would demonstrate (“Outrage!”). Maybe the ASPCA would give backlash because I made fun of skunks. But not a whisper. Not a word. Silence. What’s wrong with those doing the cancelling? Do they give a wink to some speech and not others?     

Confession: I have said and done some dumb things that I’d like to call back. I would wager you have too.  But in the words of the poet Omar Khayyam:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Our futures lie to a great extent within our own hands.  The “moving finger” business is probably a good reason to think twice before we act — or speak.  We forgive those leaving prison and help to get them a new start. We forgive family members. But for some stranger’s ill-chosen words? Comments? In the words of Donnie Brasco – “fuhgeddaboutit.” I continue to scratch my head as to why.

Knowing of our own fallibility – and frailty – it may be a good reason to consider granting forgiveness to others when there is contrition and apology.  How would you like to be treated? Would you want your child cancelled and fired from her job for saying something stupid?

What’s wrong with – I forgive you.  Please don’t do it again. Let’s move on. . . . .  

Lutefisk and Pickled Herring

[Some ancient wisdom – from February 27, 2012]

A man had a problem with a family of skunks that lived under his porch.   He tried everything to get rid of them but nothing worked.   He went to the local hardware store and asked if they had any ideas. 

A grizzled old clerk looked at him and said put lutefisk and pickled herring under your porch,” the clerk said.  “That should clear up the problem.” 

So the guy went to the market, bought a few pounds of lutefisk and pickled herring and threw it all under the porch.  The next morning, the guy ran downstairs and looked under the porch.  The skunks were gone.  But a family of Swedes had moved in. . . . .

Walleyed Pike

[An ancient post – from June 28, 2012] I used to go fishing once a year or so.  Up near Minocqua, Wisconsin, with my friend Dan.  We’d get a guide – always Jim W. who is best in the North Woods – and head out onto the deep waters in the gray fingers of dawn.  Looking for walleye.   It was so early that the loons were still sleeping (“what are they doing here?”).  

To catch walleyes, you need big worms and a small jig with a medium-sized hook.  You string the worm onto the hook so most of the worm trails behind.  Then you cast and reel in slowly waiting for a little tug.   There are times when I’ve not had so much as a nibble.   And then there are times when the fish are biting so fast and furious that you have to bait your hook behind a tree.  

At the end of the day, Jim would clean the fish and portion them into filets.  As with tilapia, not much needs to be done.  A quick roll in some olive oil, Italian seasoning and bread crumbs and saute over a medium heat until the fish is flaky.  I swear there isn’t a better-tasting fish on the planet when it’s fresh out of the lake.  Add some homemade hash browns (I cut organic potatoes thin and saute in a squidge of olive oil, some butter, salt and pepper and finely-chopped Vidalia onion), steamed broccoli and wagon wheel chocolate chip cookies for dessert.   Oh yes and some Caymus cabernet.   You’ll have a North Woods meal fit for Paul Bunyan.     

The Quran

[A repeat from June 21, 2015]

I previously described my journeys through the Old Testament (6/11/12) and New Testament (11/10/13).   Given our trip to the Middle East, I read the Quran.  All 114 suras (chapters).  The Quran is intended to be read in Arabic (26:195) but my copy was in English.  Whew. . . .  

The Quran has an Old Testament attitude (some is pretty dark) with frequent repetition of theme.  Yet there are numerous theological similarities with Judeo-Christian texts.  The cast of characters, the prophets and the stories are similar.  The commands (believe, do good works, charity, pray) are comparable.  There are parallels in God’s (or Allah’s) warning to his people (re heaven/hell).  Jesus (Isa) plays a prominent role as a Messiah.  Mary (Maryam) is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran (she has her own sura – 19).  At the risk of oversimplification, I discerned three fundamental areas of disagreement between Islam and Christianity.  First, the Quran denies that God had a son (Jesus).  Hence the repudiation of the Trinity.  He simply said “Be” and Jesus was conceived (19:35).   Second, there is the overarching theme that Mohammed wrote the Quran over 23 years after receiving the Word of God through the Archangel Gabriel (see 1/30/12 and 3/26/12).  Third, the Quran – and thus Muslims – consider Islam to be a “perfection” of Judaism and Christianity.  Islam is deemed the true religion . . . .   

Notwithstanding, Jews, Christians and Sabians are considered “People of the Book” — and thus related in the Faith.  Whether you call Him God, Jehovah or Allah; whether you worship on Friday, Saturday or Sunday; whether you say “Pax vobiscum”Peace be with you“Shalom” or “As-Salamu alaikum” the three Abrahamic religions have similar roots and much in common.  So I have to wonder — why all the misunderstanding, strife, violence and hatred?      

My Biggest Case

A repeat from July 17, 2014

When I was a young(er) lawyer, my father got a speeding ticket. “I wasn’t speeding” he protested. “I wanna fight this thing. You wanna be my lawyer?” he asked me.  I’d never handled a speeding ticket but I said “sure, Dad.”

So on the appointed day of the court hearing for my father’s speeding ticket, we showed up and sat toward the back of the courtroom. The room was crowded and people milled around. The judge entered. Everyone rose. And the judge got down to business – “anyone who wants to plead guilty, I’m willing to give you supervision – which means you pay a fine but if you get no ticket in the next six months, the conviction is wiped out.” The judge directed those interested toward a window where they would pay a fine but get their “supervision.” My father – who had been deaf since World War Two – didn’t hear but I knew he wasn’t interested (“I wanna fight this thing“).

After a while, my father’s case was called and I took my father’s arm, stood – and we walked to the front.  And stepped before the judge. “Good morning, your Honor” I said. “My name is Scott Petersen and I’m here representing the defendant Peter Petersen.” The judge got a glint in his eye and looked at me.  Smiling. “Is he your father?” “Yes Your Honor” I replied seriously. The judge chuckled. Looked at the ticket and said “case dismissed.” I thanked the judge for this amazing gift – and started to lead my father away.  He pulled back – “wait I wanna say . . . ” “DAD” I hissed – and put a finger to my lips.  

I’ve had a few cases in my career but none that gave me the satisfaction of that one.  Once outside the courtroom, I explained that the case had been dismissed.  He smiled.  “You’re pretty good,” he said.   Yep.

The Tray

Weight’s never been a problem for me. I weigh pretty much what I did in college (true) though gravity for whatever reason has caused a downward “shifting” of my body mass. If I gain a few pounds after a big dinner, the next day I will have one less cookie and – voila! – I’m back to my usual weight.

When we go out to a restaurant, Donna and I will often share a salad and a dessert. Lately though Donna has suggested that we forego dessert. I’m okay with that since I can usually rummage up something in the pantry when we get home. There is only one – giant – impediment to a pre-dinner pledge to have “no dessert.” That obstacle is – The Tray. . . .

Last night, Donna and I went out for dinner – to a new place in downtown Wilmette. Before going, we did the “pinky swear” thing that we would have no dessert. Good enough. Donna ordered the linguini with clams and I had shrimp risotto. And we shared a beet salad before the main course.

I had just wiped my mouth for the 142d time, set the napkin on the table and was about to ask the server for the bill. When it happened. . . . The server burst out of the double doors to the kitchen with a large, copiously-filled tray. Full of desserts. Our eyes were transfixed. I began to perspire. Donna shook her head “no no!” And the server plopped the tray down on our table – and with a big smile said “may I offer you some dessert?” And she rattled off detail on the ten plates cozied together on the tray. I did not try to stop her – or hold my palm in the air saying “no dessert!” Instead, after she finished, I shrugged. “We’ll have the chocolate covered cannoli please. Two forks.”